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    Make way for ospreys

    August 7, 2022 - Frank Mulligan


      "It's pretty cool to watch. Once they're old enough to fly in about two weeks, the nest can be relocated and demolition work can proceed in that location."

      Andrew Saunders

      President of New Bedford Foss Marine Terminal LLC

      NEW BEDFORD — A big, big Port of New Bedford project is slowing its pace an itty bit until two local baby birds grow a little bigger.

      Work to transform the 29-acre former Eversource Energy/Sprague Oil property into the New Bedford Foss Marine Terminal to service the offshore wind industry that will be anchored south of Martha's Vineyard for decades to come began last week.

      One building, though, is off limits until the resident representatives of the Pandion haliaetus family are old enough for a new penthouse-high abode.

      Otherwise known as ospreys — or sea hawks to intimates — a nest of the expert flying anglers was discovered on one of the old buildings coming down to make way for the new terminal and berthing facility.

      How the birds were found — and how to see them for yourself

      Andrew Saunders, president of New Bedford Foss Marine Terminal LLC which finalized the land purchase in March, said the building is known as the Gate Valve Structure.

      It's located on the water's edge and housed the valve that allowed a flow of water into the boilers to create steam.

      It hasn't been used to generate electricity since 1987 — but it has generated ospreys.

      An osprey nest is located atop the structure, and in late spring, three osprey eggs were spied.

      "Once you get eggs in an osprey nest it becomes an active nest and you can't disturb it," Saunders said.

      So demolition in that area was delayed, he said.

      One of the three ospreys died about three weeks ago. Mother ospreys generally lay three eggs, and about half of their young typically grow to maturity.

      The remaining two ospreys are big and getting bigger, bolstered by their mother's delivery of fish to keep them fed. An osprey's diet is 99% fish.

      Saunders said they set up a camera on the power plant looking down on the nest, which is broadcast on a live feed. It's particularly interesting to watch when the young ospreys enjoy their own live feed from the mama bird.

      "It's pretty cool to watch," Saunders said. "Once they're old enough to fly in about two weeks, the nest can be relocated and demolition work can proceed in that location."

      "We're going to create a pole in the southern part of the yard, and relocate the nest to that part of the yard," Saunders said, when the time is right.

      Why the birds must be protected

      The species has never been formally listed as endangered or threatened by the U.S. Department of the Interior but was designated an "ecologically sensitive" species by the U.S. Forest Service, according to the Mass Audubon website. The bird is also protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which provides protection for all birds of prey.

      They've bounced back nicely after being driven to the brink of extinction by the use of the pesticide DDT, which built up in their tissues and caused female birds to create egg shells that were thin and weak, according to Mass Audubon. DDT was banned in the United States in 1972. Ospreys can grow to be 24 inches long with a 71-inch wingspan, and typically live seven to 10 years.

      Lt. Col. Patrick Moran of the Mass. Environmental Police said it's a simple test. If there are eggs or chicks in the nest, you can't touch it. If there's nothing in it, then you can remove it.

      He said MEP recently was made aware of ospreys nesting atop beams on Mass. Maritime Academy's training vessel. It was a race to see whether the birds would mature enough in time to be relocated before the ship was scheduled to embark for Texas.

      They made it and so did the ship.

      What's next for the

      Foss Terminal project?

      And these New Bedford ospreys will likely make it, too — and without delaying the Foss Terminal project, which is scheduled to be completed in March 2023.

      The completed terminal will then be able to supply support for the unmanned wind farms to be developed south of Martha's Vineyard. That means support during construction, as well as operation and maintenance for decades to come.

      "It will be a shore base to support offshore wind construction activities, and then, once the construction's done, operation and maintenance of those same projects for the next 30 years," Saunders said.

      That means the New Bedford Foss Marine Terminal will be available for many, many osprey generations to come.

      "It's pretty cool to watch. Once they're old enough to fly in about two weeks, the nest can be relocated and demolition work can proceed in that location."

      Andrew Saunders

      President of New Bedford Foss Marine Terminal LLC


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